Cyprus Mail

Minister calls on teachers to return to dialogue

Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris

THE education ministry is expected to send a letter to teaching unions Oelmek, Poed and Oltek with education minister Costas Hambiaouris urging them to continue a dialogue on their differences next week.

The dispute is over the reduction in working hours for teachers after a number of years of service, as well as cutting time for non-teaching obligations, measures on which the Cabinet decided in July.

According to a report by the World Bank, a newly appointed primary school teacher is expected to teach for 29 40-minute periods. The number of these periods decreases to 27 after the 14th year of service and to 25 after the 20th year of service.

In general, in secondary and vocational or technical education, a newly appointed teacher has 24 45-minute periods. The number of these periods decrease to 22 after the eighth year of service, to 20 after the 16th year, and to 18 after the 24th year of service. This seniority-based reduction in teaching hours means that the most experienced teachers are teaching a third less than the newly appointed teachers.

In addition to their regular teaching workload, teachers have other non-teaching obligations as well. They need to replace colleagues who are absent, usually because of sick leave. In primary education, each teacher is expected to replace his or her colleagues for ten periods within the school year, while in secondary education, a teacher is expected to do so for seven periods.

The report points out that usually, because more teaching-hour replacements are required than are available within the school year, at some point primary-school students whose teacher is absent are distributed to other teachers’ classrooms.

In secondary education, students are either kept occupied in various activities such as studying in the school library, participating in a football game, watching a film, or are released, especially if it is at the end of the school day.

Sometimes teachers receive releases from their regular teaching loads to perform other duties. In secondary education, the release ranges from one to five periods per week, depending on the duties undertaken. For example, they get a release of five teaching periods for preparing the school timetable at the beginning of the year or leading the school choir, three periods for school parades or preparing the school sports teams, two periods for organising each of the school laboratories, and one period for maintaining every 20 school computers.

Non-teaching tasks related to instructional improvement are officially a required part of teachers’ work in Cyprus. Such tasks may include mentoring peers, collaborating on school plans, or participating in school evaluation.

The teachers’ unions argue that such activities will fall by the wayside if the government sticks to its decision to reduce both teaching hours and non-teaching hours.

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